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In a new profile in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) takes the controversies surrounding herself in stride:

"I haven't purposely been trying to be inflammatory," she said in an interview last week. "I'm trying to just explain to the American people what's happening here in Washington, D.C."


Consider for a moment that this is the Congresswoman who has said the country is at the point of revolution, or that we have to decide whether we want to be free or want to be slaves. Just imagine if she were trying to be inflammatory.

The Franken campaign is now going public with one major reason for why they handled the recount so effectively: They were prepared well in advance for the possibility. In a profile by MinnPost of Franken's general election campaign manager Stephanie Schriock, we find out that Schriock had a recount plan fully drawn up months in advance, putting it into motion immediately the day after the election.

Schriock had taken a similar tack in her campaign work in 2006, when she managed Jon Tester's campaign for Senate from Montana. Correctly predicting that the race would be close -- Tester won by less than a point, and wasn't able to actually claim victory until the next day -- Schriock had drawn up a full recount plan just in case. In fact, one of the attorneys involved at the time was none other than DNC attorney Marc Elias, who later became Al Franken's lead attorney.

"There are two reasons Al won the recount," said Elias. "He had more lawful votes and because of the organization that Stephanie has overseen."

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Yesterday, the panel overseeing bailout spending on behalf of Congress issued its latest hard-hitting report, which criticized the Treasury Department's approach to the program and called for top execs at major banks to be fired.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the report is the "alternative view" that accompanied it, from Republican panel member John Sununu.

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Steven Michael Rubinstein, the Art Basel-going yacht builder's accountant from Boca Raton who last week became first American prosecuted in a sweeping probe of tax shelters since the Swiss government ordered the bank to hand over the names of some 300 of its clients to the IRS, was released today on $12 million bail, the latest development in the intensifying probe of tax shelters. But not everyone involved in the investigation of what UBS itself called a "scheme to defraud the American government" is enjoying freedom of movement: also today the Wall Street Journal reports the bank has barred its "client facing" bankers from traveling overseas -- a move "aimed at avoiding further trouble" of the sort UBS bankers like Brad Birkenfeld flirted in the good old days before the crackdown:

Brad Birkenfeld was a frequent trans-­Atlantic flier. He lived and worked in Switzerland, dividing his time between an apartment in Geneva and a house in Zermatt, an Alpine village at the base of the Matterhorn. But his biggest client was in California, and however grueling the trip through nine time zones was, it was worth it...He was willing to go the extra mile for his clients, so he didn't blink when one of them asked him to do something that was blatantly illegal by any country's standard: Buy diamonds with secret Swiss funds and bring them into the U.S. undeclared and undetected.To get them into the country, Birkenfeld had only one option. He had to smuggle them in...So Brad Birkenfeld, a banker at one of the most prestigious institutions in global finance, began jamming his clients' loose diamonds into a tube of toothpaste.

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President Obama is saluted by U.S. General Raymond T. Odierno, commanding general in Iraq, upon his arrival at Baghdad International Airport.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama's motorcade leaves Baghdad International Airport.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

The president's motorcade makes its way to Camp Victory in Baghdad.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama receives a briefing from General Odierno and National Security Advisor James Jones.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama addresses hundreds of U.S. troops at Camp Victory.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama shakes hands with U.S. troops.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama receives a fist-bump from a U.S. soldier.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama greets soldiers at Camp Victory.

U.S. Army/Lee Craker

President Obama pins a Purple Heart medal on one of the several soldiers to receive the award.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the conclusion of their meeting in Baghdad.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Obama greets members of the press pool back aboard Air Force One.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

White House staff aboard Air Force One.

White House Photo/Pete Souza

Roll Call is reporting that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) will take the lead in advancing legislation to overturn the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when it's current sponsor, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), is confirmed by the Senate and moves over to the State Department to be President Obama's Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

There's major symbolic significance to that move.

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Buried in the news about charges against Ted Stevens being dropped, there's an additional serious indictment (as if more were needed) of the Bush Justice Department -- and specifically, of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Reporting from yesterday's hearing, at which Judge Emmet Sullivan formally announced that the charges would be dropped, the Washington Post notes:

When the judge heard that Stevens's attorneys sent three letters about prosecutorial misconduct to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey but received no response, he called it "shocking -- but not surprising."

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A day after the credit rating agency Moody's issued an unprecedented blanket negative outlook report on the debt of all American cities and towns, a fascinating New York Times story today further illuminates the process by which so many small municipalities signed on to risky derivative securities contracts that exploded on them last year, in some cases quadrupling their interest payments.

The story focuses on Tennessee and the Memphis-based investment bank Morgan Keegan, which recently celebrated its rise to top underwriter status in the state and the south central U.S., managing a whopping 39% of Tennessee bond issuances last year.

Tennessee is one of few states with laws requiring public officials charged with approving derivatives deals to attend "swap school" to learn about the risks and complexities of the contracts. The state comptroller says he asked business professors to write the swap school textbooks, but when they declined the task was left to...Morgan Keegan, which had also been retained as an adviser to many of the state's towns.

In many corners of Tennessee, the first anyone heard of interest-rate swaps was from C. L. Overman, a vice president of Morgan Keegan who assured officials that the deals carried little risk, city and county officials said.

"He told us it would be a good thing and there wasn't much downside," said Mayor Duncan of Claiborne County.
Then a few months ago, according to the Times, Overman called to tell county officials they had a few weeks to refinance an $18 million bond or pay a quadrupled quarterly payment of $700,000. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Morgan's swap school curriculum understated such risks, and the Times has the textbook to prove it. The big risk factor they missed? It's a familiar one:

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The counting of the absentee ballots is set to begin today in the NY-20 special election, where Republican candidate Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy are in a near-tie that now hinges on the nearly 7,000 absentees. But as it turns out, we shouldn't expect a quick verdict.

Whether the counting processes would happen at all had been the subject of some litigation on Monday, with the Tedisco campaign arguing that the counties should wait until April 13, the final deadline for all the military and overseas ballots to arrive in the mail under an extension that had been worked out with the federal Justice Department. But a judge sided with the Murphy camp, ruling that the counting should commence right after the deadline for all the other absentees had passed, which occurred yesterday.

The counties are now going through the process of identifying the ballots and approving them for opening, which should be a time-consuming process. For example, Washington County's deputy Republican commissioner Linda Falkouski explained to TPM that the county probably won't actually count any ballots today.

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